Green Man festival reflects Duluth’s diverse arts scene

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Disparate influences shape Duluth culture: nature and industry; history and the present; the numb mainstream and a visceral underground. Tree-hugging liberals from central casting share the city with equally stereotypical blue-collar rednecks and stick-up-the-ass conservatives. And while they’re all often socially sequestered, there’s enough (figurative) inbreeding, proximity, and individualism that your tightwad accountant might have voted for Nader, and that deli chick at the Whole Foods Co-Op could be pro-war.

Local music is a microcosm of that eclectic social interaction: punk rock kids and hippies wind up digging each others’ scenes and finding common ground in country, hip-hop, folk, and genres without names.

All of which explains and informs the Green Man Festival, three difficult-to-define days of music, visual arts, and other stuff held in Duluth’s Bayfront Park on July 14-16.

“From the beginning” –this is Green Man’s fifth year– “we’ve tried to come up with a festival that complements Duluth,” says Brad Nelson, who coordinates the festival with his older brother, Tim, and Tim’s frequent business partner Rod Raymond.

“Duluth is like Portland [Oregon] or Burlington,” Brad Nelson says, referring to those cities’ combination of natural and urban features. “There’s an interesting punk rock-hippie or hippie-punk rock vibe. We’re trying to reflect that vibe. We’ve had a vision of the outdoor festival we’d want to go to. It’s been like a band trying to find its sound–it’s taken a while, but we’re more proud of it than we’ve ever been. This year is the most true to the Green Man concept we’ve been.”

What is Green Man?
“We really don’t want to get pigeonholed,” Brad Nelson continues. “It’s hard to explain what Green Man is. We’re trying to get people to trust us–to trust our booking, and that if they come they’ll see stuff they like and might be challenged by.”

Even the coordinators’ guiding principle is difficult to define.
“Basically, we ask ourselves, ‘Will Dave Hoops like it?’ ” says Tim Nelson.

Hoops is an award-winning brewmaster at Fitger’s Brewhouse, which Tim Nelson and Raymond own. His aesthetic acumen is broad and deep. But that’s an incomplete characterization. He, too, is tough to define. Maybe it’s most accurate to say that he lives in at least four dimensions, dedicated to palpable art and pleasure (and artful pleasure), and to using those crafts as vehicles for seeking deep connections with all things not palpable. He’s a thoughtful, philosophical, even spiritual, hedonist.

“He’s got very good taste in music,” says Tim Nelson.

“He’s sort of an ‘all-Duluth’ guy,” says Brad Nelson.

And he is, to a certain extent, Green Man’s guiding principle.


All kinds. Well, many kinds: Low’s increasingly loud contemplations; Trampled by Turtles’ bluegrassish stuff; Garrison Starr’s alt-country; and a visceral mix that includes Cloud Cult, Charlie Parr, Savage Aural Hotbed, God Johnson, the Moaners, the Meat Purveyors, Koerner and Glover, and The Thin Man.

“This year we stripped it back to people and acts we know,” Tim Nelson says. “We don’t have to deal with huge contract riders and corporate agents, which has freed our minds to work on other things, and allowed us to drop the weekend ticket price to a third of what it used to be [it’s now 30 bucks, and a day pass is $12].”

Bayfront Park’s handsome main stage will host the weekend’s “bread and butter” acts, whose sets will alternate with shows under a side stage tent. High school bands and other artists will play on the relatively small Experimentation Stage.

After four years at ski areas just outside town, this year’s Green Man will take place at the smaller, more tightly contained Bayfront Park, site of the well-known Bayfront Blues Festival, within an easy walk of Canal Park and Superior Street. Green Village will include vendors like Summit, Peace Coffee, Fitger’s Brewhouse, and Portside Pizza selling music merchandise, beer, and food, and attractions such as glassblower Jess Durfee and blacksmith Paul Webster. First-come, first-served campsites are available a block from the festival grounds.

MNArtists.org will have a tent where festival-goers can add lines to an online communal poem and colors to a communal painting. Independent radio stations will be on site. Kids’ activities will be organized during the day. A yoga session will be offered Sunday at noon. Independent films will be shown throughout the weekend.

“I think one of the biggest things for the future could be the cruiser bike ride,” says rod Raymond, referring to a Friday afternoon ride that will leave from the festival gate, meander around Duluth for a while, then return.

“Now that we’re basically downtown, it’s easy to just hop on a bike and go to and from the festival site to pretty much anywhere,” Raymond says.
Raymond says the festival is defined by a blending of “music, art, and physical activity.”

Isn’t there some sort of naturey thing too?
“This is one of the only festivals I’ve been to where you see people picking up trash and keeping things clean,” Brad Nelson says. “I’ve actually seen people correct each others’ recycling.”

Raymond says, “It’s a neat combination of environmental awareness and fun.”

“We want to be environmentally friendly,” Brad Nelson says, “but we also don’t want to have people who pull up in SUVs to get handed a flier saying, ‘You’re why we’re in Iraq!’ “

For more on Green Man, click “here”:http://greenmanfestival.com

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